TOP Paris Travel GuideMonday, August 08, 2016
Having visited Paris a total of 3 times in the last 17 years, I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a resident expert; however there’s plenty of haute spots I make sure NOT TO MISS with every return. What to see, where to stay, where to shop, and of course all the nommy eats from breakfast through dinner and the veritable snacking in between!
TOP PARIS TRAVEL GUIDE
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L A N D M A R K S
Eiffel Tower- If you miss it, it’s like you never visited Paris. There are SO many vantage points around the tower for fabulous snaps; from the front garden of Champ de Mars, to the side surrounding neighborhoods around Rue Saint-Dominique and Rue de Grenelle, but my favorite would have to be from Trocadero at Le Musee Homme, where hardly anyone hangs out. And when I say hardly, I mean 50 ppl vs. the horde of hundreds you’ll find across the Seine hanging out right under the tower. No need to stand in line to take the elevator to the top, I’d rather spend half the day at a nearby café admiring her from a loving distance.
Louvre- The world’s largest museum with a famous enclosed glass pyramid leading the way to the entrance. Housed within the Louvre Palace, I can spend dayssss at this museum ogling everything from Egyptian antiques, Greek and Etruscan statues to decorative art, paintings, prints and of course end the day with yet another glimpse at the Mona Lisa. I swear she changes with every visit!
Notre Dame- The medieval Catholic cathedral located in the 4th arrondissement on the Ile de la Cite. I studied Gothic style architecture while in design school and was always so amazed by the sweeping flying buttresses surrounding the choir and the nave. The intricately carved statues and gargoyles were placed on the façade to not only offer ornamental décor, but served as column supports and water spouts as well. Now that’s impressive design!
Sacre- Coeur is the Roman Catholic Church perched upon the hilltop of the butte Montmartre at the highest point of Paris. A stunning white travertine basilica with 3 domed porticos that became the famed landmark for which the city dedicated to the fallen troops from the French Revolution. On a clear day, you can see the entire city and be instantly spellbound. Check out deets from our previous Paris trip HERE
Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon to honor those who fought and died for France in the Revolution. The names of all the French victories and generals are inscribed on its surface while the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI lies directly beneath the vault. You can climb the stairs to the top of the Arc and see the impressive 12 avenues radiating from the center point like a star. It’s really quite stunning and surprisingly very spiritual to be standing at the point where victory marches were held during the war.
Sainte- Chapelle – Holy Gothic chapel with exquisite 13th century stained glass windows. You can’t see the chapel from the streets but you will know you’re at the correct spot from the long line of people queueing up to get in.
Pere Lachaise Cemetary- Famous gravesite set in beautifully preserved burial site with tree lined aisles
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J A R D I N S | G A R D E N S
Jardin du Luxembourg is just plain massive. Exquisitely manicured lawns, gorgeous fountains, a grand palace, TONS of family attractions, playgrounds for the tots, and a spot to host all your ball-playing needs.
Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris dating back to the 17th century. It’s smaller in comparison to the others but the space is surrounded by beautifully ornate homes, you can’t help but imagine that you live right along this garden and just taking a break from staring at the computer all day.
Palais- Royal Gardens is a 17th century arcaded palace with inner courtyard gardens and Colonnes de Buren controversial art installation (shot here). So majestic I feel like royalty just sitting here sipping my latte.
Jardin Tuileries located between the Louvre and place de la Concorde this vast statue studded 17th century garden is famous for the ferris wheels and amusement park style swing and arcades. During the summertime, it’s super festive with an energy that pulsates to the beat of a young, fun crowd.
Parc Monceau is situated in the super rich, hoity-toity 8th arrondissement and designed with a romantic English garden in mind. It features a myriad of various monuments from Corinthian pillars to an Egyptian pyramid to the famed bridge modeled after the Rialto bridge in Venice. Parc Monceau was restored during the Second Empire but faint traces of the 18th century designed church of Saint-Denis still stands. You can’t miss the famous black and gilded gold wrought-iron gates at the 4 main entrances leading the way. Today, you’ll see tons of locals and their kiddies spending all day at the merry-go-round, sandpits, and play areas.
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H A U T E H O O D S
Vendome (1st Arrondissement) for location, location, LOCATION! Centrally located in Paris on the Right Bank and within walking distance to the BEST shopping, restaurants, cafes, and bars. We walked all the way to Trocadero and Bastille from this center point of Paris.
Haute Spots: The Louvre, Tuileries Garden, Place Vendome, Palais Garnier, Le Palais Royal
Haute Hotels: Westin Vendome, The Ritz Paris, Hôtel Le Meurice, Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, Grand Hotel du Palais Royal
The Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin) is located in the 5th and 6th arrondissements on the Left Bank around Sorbonne. I love this area since it caters to the melting pot of Paris; lotsa students which means inexpensive cultural cuisine, tons of pubs and bars, and a cool walking area rich in history with churches and fountains galore. Very bohemian chic part of town.
Haute Spots: Pantheon, Place St. Michel, and Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
Haute Hotels: Grand Hotel du Palais Royal, Relais St. Jacques Hotel, Le Jardin de Cluny Hotel, Le Relais Hotel du Vieux Paris, Villa d’Estrees Hotel
St. Germain de Pres- Art is located in the 6th arrondissements and is romantically known as the artist’s enclave with galleries, museums, churches, bistros/ bars, and tons of design shops to tickle your fancy. While old school locals may turn their pompous noses at what St. Germain has become vs. what it used to be back in its heyday, I still love the charm of such rich history. A little artsy-fartsy but hey, so am I! Don’t judge ;D
Haute Spots: Café Les Deux Maggots and Café de Flore, arguably the 2 most notorious cafes in Paris made famous by Hemmingway and Picasso. St. Sulpice Church, St. Germain Market, and of course Luxembourg Gardens, one my all-time FAVE places in all of Paris!
Haute Hotels: Relais Christine, Hotel Relais St. Germain, Hotel d’Aubusson, L’Hotel, Bel Ami
Le Marais is located in the 3rd arrondissement and is still my favorite for low-budget vintage shopping. The cafes here are the cutest, the bars here the most trendy, the locals here the most lively. It’s young, it’s fresh and it feels like where I would live if I called Paris home. Small and quaint, familiar yet worldly, the maze of cobblestoned streets beckons a full day’s worth of getting lost in thought. The architecture in this part of town is still very medieval but coupled with the present cool factor, le Marais ranks high up on my list of places to see/ stay/ eat/ and sleep.
Haute Spots: Place des Vosges, Bastille Square, La Boheme, Carnavalet Museum, Picasso Museum.
Haute Hotels: Le Pavillon de la Reine, Hotel Georgette, Le Mareuil, Hotel d’Aubusson
Montmartre is located in the northern most tip of Paris in the 18th arrondissement. Notorious for being the original artist’s village where Picasso, Monet and pals used to hobnob at the local cafes during the day and catch a peep show or two in the Red Light District. Of course, all of that glamorous luster is gone and you’re left with tons of tourists trekking their way up to Sacre Coeur and back down around the artist’s square where amateur artists will try to get you to sit for a portrait or two. Never mind the tourist attractions and I could get lost wandering the cobblestoned streets all day long. One of the best preserved areas of the city I think. Still feels very old world even with all the selfie-taking tourists, lol.
Haute Spots: Basilica of Sacre Coeur, Montmarte Village, Place du Tertre, Marche St. Pierre (for all you textile lovers!) and Moulin Rouge.
Haute Hotels: Hotel Particulier, Hotel Sofia, Hotel des Arts, Maison Souquet, Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacre- Coeur, Hotel Villa Fenelon
Just a note: Although I have only stayed at the Westin Vendome from the above list (5 stars! No complaints here!) I did my fair share of research and was *this* close to booking any of the others. My loss is your gain! I hope you find this list helpful! I would figure out the area I want to stay in most and do a little more research for lodging based on your budget and needs.
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L U N C H & D I N N E R
Le Relais de L’Entrecote (8th arrondissement) Hands down the BEST steak and frites in all of Paris. No reservations, you have to wait in line right when they open to snag a coveted seat. 2 servings of their claim to fame dish and you don’t even have to order it or ask for seconds. Best of all, they just opened in Beverly Hills- go NOW!
L’Avant Comptoir (6th arr) Made famous by Anthony Bourdain, I much prefer their counter-style dining with standing room only rather than waiting forever next door at Le Comptoir. Small plates served up with the utmost care and attention. The BEST tapas in town!
Bistro Paul Bert (11th arr) we stumbled upon this restaurant knowing nothing about Chef’s Paul Bert’s pedigree and only later discovered that locals book months in advance for the traditional French cooking. So delightfully authentic the cheese cart alone has me dreaming of Paul Bert. Check out our previous post from the Paris 2010 Diary HERE
Frenchie (2nd arr) We tried to dine at Frenchie on our last vacation (2010 seen HERE) but was dumbfounded by their impossible to get reservation system accepted only with a phone call in French. Fast forward some 6 years later and now you can make an easy reservation online for this prix-fixe treat in molecular gastronomy.
Comptoir de la Gastronomie (1st arr) The most memorable meal during our honeymoon. Think of all the hundreds of ways you can cook duck and they’re doing it here hunnies! TO.DIE.FOR truffle duck ravioli, OMG I’m salivating just thinking about it. They have other proteins on the menu of course, but when in
Rome! Paris ;D
Les Cocottes (7th arr) Another Anthony Bourdain fave (seriously does that guy ever steer you wrong??) located right by the Eiffel Tower. Rich, savory, new French cuisine by Christian Constant. This casual dining spot is cheaper than his namesake restaurant, yet still maintains all that jazz.
Le Soufflé (1st arr) I LOVE a good soufflé. Peeps don’t realize how absolutely difficult it is to perfect this egg-based plate. But Parisians? Parisian Chefs GET it honey! We came for sweet dessert soufflés but everyone and their mamas were ordering the savory variety. Think Chicken Pot Pie but soufflé style with a mix of delicate fillings.
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B O U L A N G E R I E & P A T I S S E R I E
Pierre Herme – The BEST macarons in the entire galaxy! Laduree who??? Seriously, no one can compete with their rich and luxuriously decadent flavor profiles. No matter what part of the world I visit, if there’s a PH nearby, I’m purchasing their entire spread!
Patisserie Stohrer- Known for the best eclairs, their salted caramel one is a game/life changer.
Paul – A quick and casual bakery spot perfect for grabbing a baguette, some sandwiches, and a café emporter (togo). LOVE their beignets!
Eric Kayser – Mid to upscale bakery perfect for breakfast or lunch. They make sandwiches, pizzas, and soups daily so stop by if you’re in between meals.
Fauchon – Super duper high end but NO ONE makes better chocolate croissants. Although any chocolate croissant in Paris is worlds better than what you’d find in the states, lol. So I’d say they’re the BEST of the BEST!
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V I N T A G E & L U X E C O N S I G N M E N T
Les 3 Marches de Catherine B- Kouros has been running this shop for the last 20 years! A man who clearly knows his Chanel and Hermes, mostly vintage, all consigned. Prepare to pay beaucoup bucks for these goods honey, they are ALL in pristine condition! By appointment only.
MB Select- I stumbled upon this tiny consignment shop right by our hotel Westin Vendome and SO happy I did. I scored a 2012 Chanel Clutch and a limited edition Chanel messenger for a great price. This boutique carries all consignment items from every Italian and French label you can think of. Tons of trendy Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Versace at very reasonable prices.
Gabrielle Geppert- All designer handbags, wallets and accessories. Located right next door to Didier Ludot so stop by both consignment boutiques and check out their selections. Never mind the stark modern interior of Gabrielle’s shop, the staff is super knowledgeable albeit a bit standoffish to visible tourists.
Didier Ludot- This spot has a fair amount of designer consignment clothing, mostly jackets and thick coats. If you love to rummage, this is the place for you. It’s not a large space so you can go through the jam packed racks in less than 30 minutes. Less handbags and purses than any of the above, but stellar selections as a result.
Chercheminippes- this is the MECCA of all consignment goods in Paris. 3 mini shops adjacent to one another, you can get lost looking for that perfect designer handbag/ necklace/ dress/ or heels! They have the most variety of luxury designers but very little Chanel and Hermes, if at all. They have separated the shops into women’s/ men’s + accessories so le hubs has something to do instead of holding your shopping bags all day. The apparel selection here is BANANAS! They are fairly organized but with designer items still in plastic dry cleaning bags (no oily fingers/ no uninvited stains) you’ll still have to thumb through every single garment to get a feel for what’s available.
Marche aux Puces de Saint- Quen/ Les Puces – the largest flea market in all of Paris, I planned our entire trip here in 2010 around the excursion. There’s antiques, second-hand furniture, clothing, books, 17th century tchotchkes, trinkets, and so so much more. Located north of Montmartre, you can make a day of it when the stalls open and make your way down to the artist’s village for late lunch. Of course cash is king so bring plenty! They even have a shipping kiosk at Marche Dauphine for those large, heavy items you can’t carry home. Open Sat/Sun/Mondays only.
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V I N T A G E, T H R I F T & S H O P P I N G S T R I P S
If you’re not looking for high-end luxury vintage goods try Kiliwatch, Adom, Free P Star, and Hippy Market. My BEST TIP to see the city on foot is to map out all your favorite vintage stores (Yelp Search: “Used, Vintage, and Consignment” and “Depot Vente”) and allow the results to take you on a tour of the city. I am ALL about the thrill of the chase so I hunted down all the Depot Ventes (luxury consignment) in Paris and spent day by day in surrounding arrondissements. Le hubs was a champ! Even helping me determine the best routes to take so we'd walk pass historical sites, churches, and monuments along the way <3
Champs- Elysees- We stayed in an apartment on the Champs Elysees on my first visit when I was 19 years old. Although the area is quite touristy now (think Rodeo Drive) you can still shop to your heart’s content since the selection of stores mirror those in the most popular shopping cities of the world.
Rue Cambon- 31. The only address you need to know on Rue Cambon as Coco Chanel used to live here and what is now the famed flagship Chanel boutique of the world. Also the only Chanel store that uses white bags instead of the ubiquitous black glossy shoppers. Walk down Cambon into the myriad of little intersecting streets for the best of high end shopping. The Zara Woman around the corner boasts the best kept boutique of all the Zaras that litter Paris.
D A Y T R I P SVersailles | Giverny | Fontainbleau
(Yes, in that order)
Thank you so much for reading my loves!
I hope my top travel picks makes your trip to Paris that much easier and more insightful.
I'm the gal who plans and books all of our trips; for le hubs, for my girls, the family and their mamas, lol. The amount of research I do is really quite extensive, often times planned for months, even a year ahead of time. Of course everyone travels differently so if you're a fan of my blog and personal style, then I'm sure there's something on this list that you'll absolutely LOVE to visit.
And if not, at least you'll get some fabulous snaps for your vacation album!